The U.S. Supreme Court has directed the case of floral artist, Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to bake a cake for a friend’s same sex wedding, back to the Washington Supreme Court after vacating that court’s decision and instructing it to reconsider her lawsuit in light of the high court’s recent decision regarding Colorado baker, Jack Phillips.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian non-profit law firm, is reporting that the high court’s decision regarding Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, will give her a new opportunity for justice. Much like Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Stutzman has endured legal attack and religious hostility by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union ever since the case was brought.
“Barronelle, like Jack, serves all customers but declines to create custom art that expresses messages or celebrates events in conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs. The Washington attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack,” said Kristen Waggoner, ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016. Waggoner also argued for Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision,” Waggoner explained. “In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack and Barronelle. The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown similar hostility here.”
In Stutzman’s case, the Attorney General has steadfastly, on his own initiative, pursued unprecedented measures to punish the 73-year-old florist, not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity. He threatened her personal assets, including her life savings. In one instance, Ferguson obtained a court order allowing him to collect on Stutzman’s personal assets and publicized a letter offering to settle the case for $2,001 if she agreed to give up her religious and artistic freedom.
“It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman responded. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”
At the same time, Waggoner points out, Ferguson failed to prosecute a business that discriminated against Christian customers.
The Washington Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Stutzman and ordered her to pay penalties and attorney’s fees for declining to design the custom floral arrangements requested of her by a long-time customer and friend, Rob Ingersoll.
As Stutzman describes, she and Ingersoll were friends for 10 years and even though she found it difficult to deny his request for floral arrangements for his marriage to his male partner, he didn’t seem angry about it. After she recommended several other florists, the two parted with a hug. The next thing she knew, he was suing her.
After years of legal wrangling and religious hostility, the Supreme Court just handed her another shot at justice.
Let us keep this heroic Christian in our prayers!
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